Rep. John Sarbanes (D–Md. 3rd), former Congressional representatives Connie Morella (R–Md. 8th) and Tom McMillen (D–Md. 4th), and Adam Dubitsky, policy director to Gov. Larry Hogan, headlined a discussion about the seemingly uncontrolled influence of money in our political system.
The panel examined ways in which elections can be taken away from the monopoly of special interests and given back to the citizens. Rep. Sarbanes said Members of Congress today spend more than half their time raising money, coming at the expense of constituency-related activities.
Rep. McMillen and Rep. Morella noted that they also spent significant amount of time raising money while they were in office. Rep. Morella said that not raising expected amounts of money meant not getting desired committee appointments or losing the support of the party.
The panelists also spoke of ways to counteract the influence that money has on politics, such as increased civic education, constituency pressure on elected officials, and greater adoption of state-level public financing measures.
Mr. Dubisky discussed how Governor Larry Hogan’s success with the Maryland Public Financing System has led to county level governments in the state providing public funds for candidates. He noted that public financing of elections at all levels can lead to a broader pool of candidates for offices.
The discussion was also informed by results from the latest iteration of The Washington Post–University of Maryland Poll, which showed wide bipartisan agreement among Maryland residents that money has too much influence in politics and that the issue needs to be addressed.
As Rep. McMillen stated: “This is truly one of most important issues facing the country.”
The panel moderator, Government and Politics associate professor and director of the Center for American Politics and Citizenship, Stella Rouse said, “The event was a great way to bring a number of interested parties, from students, to the general public, to former and current Members of Congress, to the Governor’s office, together to discuss this very important and timely issue. Poll after poll indicates that the American people, regardless of whether they are Republican, Democrat, or independent, want something to be done about the influence of money in our political system. We began with a sobering discussion of the problems and ended with potential solutions and a call to action. This is precisely the role the University and our Center want to play in facilitating change.”
This event was presented by the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Department of Government and Politics, the Center for American Politics and Citizenship (CAPC), Issue One, and the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress.